Success is like trying to grab hold of a bar of soap in the tub—just when you think you have hold of it, it squirts out of your hand. The elusiveness of success can be related to how we define the word.
For most people, success is measured by individual achievements: reaching a financial goal; completing a course of studies; obtaining a coveted possession; being promoted to an enviable position; and the list goes on. Are these individual achievements really the measure of our success?
So, what is success? Allow me to give you my working definition: Developing and releasing the full spectrum of my abilities for the maximum benefit of those in my circle of responsibility.
That definition emerged after a rather shocking wake up call during my first year at college. I do not recall doing one bit of homework during the 12 years of public school. Homework would interfere with my passion for sports. As long as my marks didn’t drop below a “B” my father accepted my choice.
Reckoning day came after the first quarter exams. I failed one exam and barely made a pass mark on the rest. The Dean called me into his office. His words were brief and to the point: “Duane, one day you will stand before God and give an account for how you have used or wasted the intellectual capacity He has given you.” The light went on. I had been given intellectual gifts: endowments to be developed for the benefit of others. Life was about more than my personal pleasure.
Numerous polls indicate that over 80% of the workforce is dissatisfied with their job. I recognize that there are many factors that contribute to this condition. However, the stats do seem to underline one problem—the lack of a clearly defined definition of success.
Let me suggest three things that are essential to success: A clearly defined vision; unshakeable convictions; and a teachable spirit.
A Clearly Defined Vision:
Vision is usually attached to the achievement of goals. That does have its place. Three brick-layers were asked what they were doing. The first responded, “I’m laying bricks. Can’t you see?” The second, “I’m building a wall.” The third, “I’m building a shopping mall.” The third person saw his task fitting into a larger, future vision.
Has it ever crossed your mind that what you become through your work is more important than what you accomplish in your work. Let me remind you that:
Thoughts are formulated in Words
Words are expressed in action
Actions create habits
Habits etch our character
Character shapes our destiny.
What is it that you want to become? What do you want written on your tombstone?
Convictions are to life what the rudder is to the ship. Convictions are the core values that shape our decisions. Without convictions we are shaped by pragmatism that is utilitarian in its practice. We bow to the highest bidder and will purchase at the lowest possible price. People are valuable to the degree that they are useful.
Convictions are: an anchor in the storm; a guiding light in the night; a signpost in the wilderness; a compass on the sea; radar in the battle; sonar in the dark night of the soul. Convictions enable you to deflect the casual comment, answer the critic, and stand firm in the midst of opposition.
What are the convictions that govern your life and how have they shaped your decisions in the past year?
A Teachable Spirit:
When I speak of a teachable spirit I am talking about the attitude with which we learn not the mere accumulation of information. During my early years I had the disreputable habit of using argumentation as a form of learning. I would use every rebuttal I could to challenge a person’s position. Whether I believed the argument or not was irrelevant—it simply served as a useful way to gather information. On the other hand, well formulated questions helps to draw out the wisdom that the other person possesses. The later is rooted in the belief that every individual has a deposit of wisdom that will add color to the mosaic of life.
These three qualities are not a formula for success, they are a way of life that refocuses our pursuit of pleasure, realigns us to a path of purpose and releases a new power to reach our potential.